City feels relief after two firefighters admit to setting fires

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Reporter - Robert Bradfield

CAIRO, Ill. — House fires have become the norm in the city of Cairo and over the last five years, the community is left asking why.

"It's devastating because there is no family values here," said Cairo resident Calvin Wilson.

Ten people were forced from a home in January 2011, just one of nearly 70 structures, mostly homes, since 2007 that were set on fire intentionally.

"A lot of people lost a lot of sleep wondering if their home is going to be next," Wilson said.

But when news of two arrests broke in June, it gave people like Wilson a little comfort knowing police were making headway.

"That was something that bothered a lot of people," he said.

Wilson believes Richard Scott Pitcher and David Patrick didn't act alone. In fact, after their arrests, the fires slowed down but they didn't stop.

"It makes the whole city sleep easier," Wilson said. "We'd appreciate it is some of the other fires could just stop."

One of the main reasons Wilson said fires have consumed Cairo is Alexander County's unemployment rate. At 11.1 percent, it's the highest in southern Illinois and traditionally one of the highest in the state.

"We need to get kids off the street," Wilson said. "We don't have anything for the young people to do."

Wilson, who grew up in Cairo, knows his town needs to turn its image around. The only way to do that, he said, is to change the attitudes of the people who live there.

"This is where you live at," he said. "Respect it. Appreciate and try to build it back to where it used to be."

A judge will sentence Patrick June 13. Pitcher's sentencing date is set for June 20.

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